Wednesday, June 30, 2004

On kiddie porn and the Malboro Man

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Something struck me: the USA, and, increasingly, the UK are deadset on banning public smoking. As we've heard countless times, passive smoke is a major health hazard, a public risk that no responsible citizen should promote.

But what of this recent Supreme Court ruling in defense of the "right" to enjoy and promulgate child pornography? The Internet is one of the, if not the, most public domain in the entire world. What you do online affects literally the entire world. Why, then, should the distribution and increased accessiblity of child pornography not be seen as an equally reckless public health risk?

Beacuse it doesn't hurt our precious adult bodies, that's why.

As long as something merely pollutes the pliable and more easily ignored minds of children, but leaves the bodies of adults unscathed, well, it's as right as rain. If it's unethical for the cigarette companies to "lure" youths into smoking with youth-oriented advertising, I say it's at least equally wrong to lure them in to pedophilia by legislatively protecting the thin veneer of respectability that modern pop-psychology has given to pedophilia (as an alternative form of love, dontchaknow).

You're going to tell me sex is less addicting than smoking? You're going to tell it's possible to create a smoking industry by sheer market influence, but it's harmless to allow the porn industry to proselytize our nation's youth?

Call in the Marlboro Man, it's time to kick some ass.

Torture me, torture you

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The science of suffering

(BBC News Online Magazine, Jennifer Quinn, Published: 2004/06/29 11:10:42 GMT)

"In investigations of US abuse of imprisoned Iraqis, there has been reluctance to use the T-word," Martha Huggins, a sociology professor at New Orleans' Tulane University, told a forum on torture this week. ...

After studying Brazilian police from 1964 to 1985, Ms Huggins laid out the classic conditions for mistreatment of prisoners. ...

Ms Huggins told the conference an environment like that [at Abu Ghraib -- EBB] encourages cruelty, by "establishing a climate where no explicit order to torture has to be given".

This idea, of ubiquitizing a "torturous" climate, is analogous to what I said (below), in reference to the Supreme Court's latest ruling against online child-pornogrpahy restrictions, about America's youth being too sensitive. Kiddie porn is simply media-based torture of children. All we then need do is ubiquitize the climate of child pornography as a "natural" form of self-expression and "mature" sexual development, and then the boundary between "indecent" and "obscene" will disappear like blood down a drain.

Torture, she said, is systemic and not simply the work of a few twisted people. The actions of those who torture are supported by many others, including those who feed and look after prisoners, deliver them into custody, who treat their injuries and even those who pay the guards' wages. ...

A key element is that national security is used as a reason to interrogate enemies of the state. ...

"Torture is nurtured and justified by ideologies that create an ever-expanding category of 'enemy' others," said Ms Huggins. "Where 'good' nations are threatened by 'evil-doers', and anyone could be an 'enemy' there should be no restriction on interrogation.

"Fear, whether or not deliberately instilled - as in fictions about 'weapons of mass destruction' - grants legitimacy to torture."

Say no to sex... and then what?

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How effective are abstinence pledges?

The problem is too many people have detached sexual chastity from personal holiness. Sexual chastity is not an end in itself, not just faddish way to be unique and counter-cultural, but is a radical virtue aimed towards deeper union with God at all moments, and more transparent intimacy with a spouse later on. Saying no to sex without saying yes to something better is, as the data indicate, simply inadequate.

Studies show that abstinence campaigns do delay sexual activity, with pledgers first having sex an average of 18 months later than those who have made no such promise. But when they fall off the wagon - and many do - about a third do not use contraception. ...

And those who have pledged to remain virgins until marriage have similar rates of sexually transmitted diseases as non-pledgers, according to a six-year study of the sex lives of 12,000 young Americans.


Study of 12,000 aged 12 to 18

Six years on, 99% of non-pledgers had sex before marriage

So too did 88% of pledgers ...

"It's difficult to simultaneously prepare for sex and say you're not going to have sex," said Peter Bearman, of Columbia University, in presenting his findings earlier this year.

"The message is really simple: 'Just say no' may work in the short term but doesn't work in the long term." ...

Supporters of comprehensive sex education say that as well as being encouraged to delay sex, teenagers should be given information about birth control and protection against disease.

Hear, hear!

Yet in the US, the abstinence-only movement has expanded from a collection of disparate groups into a centrally-funded drive to tackle unsafe sex, backed to the tune of $270m by the Bush administration. ...

In Uganda, unlike its African neighbours, the spread of HIV has declined dramatically over the past decade or so. Its success is thought to be down to a three-way shift in sexual behaviour: abstinence, condom use and monogamy.

Don't sit so close to the TV, you'll get facial hair

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Watching TV may speed up puberty

(BBC, Kevin Buckley in Milan, Published: 2004/06/28 15:33:55 GMT)

Italian researchers found children denied access to television for just one week experienced a 30% jump in their melatonin levels.

The hormone is thought to prevent the early onset of puberty.

If confirmed, this would be the first sign of a direct physiological impact on television watching upon the young. ...

Yes, namely, being a key ingredient in the concoction of an oversexed culture like ours. You've got kids watching images of sex and violence, meanwhile simultaneously accelerating their pubescence. Lovely.

Our hypothesis is that the light and radiation coming from exposure to television screens, and computer screens, disturbs this production of the hormone. ...

In humans, the hormone regulates the body's internal 'clock'. Levels are at their lowest in the daylight hours, but peak in the evening around eight o'clock as the body prepares for a night's sleep. ...

Incidentally, one reason chocolate is so popular during winter is because chocolate increases serotonin production, thus "waking" people out of the dreary "winter depression" that little sunlight induces.

The phenomenon of precocious puberty - when children develop the first signs of puberty earlier than the normal ages of ten for girls and eleven-and-a-half for boys - is increasing all over the western world. ...

Now, according to Professor Salti, some children enter puberty as young as seven. ...

Hey, baby, say cheeeeese!

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A new type of ultrasound scan has produced vivid pictures of a 12 week-old foetus "walking" in the womb.

(BBC, Published: 2004/06/28 12:28:39 GMT)

You gotta see these images to believe it. Go to the page and check it out.

The new images also show foetuses apparently yawning and rubbing its eyes.

Remember, people, this is at TWELVE pre-partem weeks.

The scans, pioneered by Professor Stuart Campbell at London's Create Health Clinic, are much more detailed than conventional ultrasound.

Professor Campbell has previously released images of unborn babies appearing to smile.

He has compiled a book of the images called Watch Me Grow. ...

Now, since even this revealing technology will probably be insufficient to warm the conscience of many pro-abortion folks, we'll need to ask Prof. Campbell to compile a companion volume, Watch Me Be Poisoned, Dismembered and Aborted.

He says his work has been able to show for the first time that the unborn baby engages in complex behaviour from an early stage of its development.

Professor Campbell told the BBC: "This is a new science for understanding and mapping out the behaviour of the baby.["] ...

ERROR: Don't say the "baby", Professor, say the "uteran growth." Also, avoid saying "behavior"; we prefer the more clinically precise term "progression."

The images have shown:

From 12 weeks, unborn babies can stretch, kick and leap around the womb - well before the mother can feel movement

From 18 weeks, they can open their eyes although most doctors thought eyelids were fused until 26 weeks

From 26 weeks, they appear to exhibit a whole range of typical baby behaviour and moods, including scratching, smiling, crying, hiccuping, and sucking.

Augustine Day by Day - June 30 - Act in the Proper Way

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"If they are children of God, let them understand that they are moved by God so that they may do what is to be done. And when they have done it, let them give thanks to him by whom they do it.

"Hence, when they act in the proper way, that is, with love and the delight of justice, they should rejoice that they have received the sweetness the Lord has given them. When they do not act in the proper way, let them pray that they may receive what they do not yet have."

-- Correction and Grace 4

Prayer. Perfect me, O Lord.

-- Confessions 11, 2

Christian Heritage - June 30 - Paul

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"No one has known Christ better than Paul, nor surpassed him in the example he gave of what anyone should be who bears Christ's name. So perfectly did he mirror his Master that he became his very image. He was transformed into his model and it seemed to be no longer Paul who lived and spoke, but Christ himself living in Paul.

"Paul teaches us the meaning of Christ's name when he calls him the power and wisdom of God, our peace, the unapproachable light in which God dwells, our sanctification and redemption; when he declares him to be the reflection of God's glory, the perfect likeness of his nature, the Creator of all ages, our spiritual food and drink, the rock and the water, the foundation of our faith, the cornerstone, the image of the invisible God. He shows what Christ's name means when he says that he is the mighty God, the head of his body the Church, the firstborn of the new creation, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep, the firstborn from the dead, the eldest of many brothers and sisters, and when he tells us that Christ is the mediator between God and the human race, the only-begotten Son crowned with glory and honor, the Lord of glory, the beginning of all things, the king of justice and of peace, the king of the whole universe, the ruler of a realm that has no boundaries."

Gregory of Nyssa (AD 330-395), Christian Perfection: Jaeger 8, 174-177

Gregory was greatest speculative theologian of the three great Cappadocian Fathers, a trio which also included Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa's eldest brother, Basil the Great. Apparently against his family's wishes, before he became a bishop, Gregory, much like Augustine, pursued a secular career and the study of rhetoric. Also probably like Augustine, he may have been married, as suggested by Gregory of Nazianzus's written condolences for his loss.

Fat guy in a little coat… and with a smaller nocturnal ghrelin spike

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A hormone that affects hunger acts in surprising and different ways in lean and fat men -- a finding that may offer new ways to treat obesity, U.S. researchers have reported.

(Reuters, Tuesday, June 29, 2004 Posted: 10:25 AM EDT (1425 GMT))

Now, if I understand this article correctly – and I should warn you, it’s generally a safe bet I don’t understand things – this hormone, ghrelin, increases a person’s appetite. Or does it increase your metabolism? Or are they two sides of the same coin?

Anyway, what I think occurs is that because obese men have less ghrelin, their bodies metabolize fewer excess calories at night. Thin men’s ghrelin spike burns excess calories for them throughout the night, while obese men, I guess, are closer to a hibernal state.

Ghrelin is the latest in a line of hormones discovered in recent years that act on appetite and eating behaviors. Another hormone, called leptin, makes fat rats lose weight when injected but in humans has little effect -- showing that these compounds interact in complex ways in people. . . .

They were surprised to discover a giant burst of ghrelin in the lean men's blood between midnight and dawn. It was a bigger spike even than that seen just before a meal, they wrote in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In the fat men, ghrelin levels stayed level all night long. . . .

"At first glance, our findings appear contradictory. You'd expect the blood levels of the heavier men to contain more hunger hormone. Something must be overriding obese persons' ghrelin," he added. . . .

Finally, some news that doesn’t suck

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FDA OK’s medical use of leeches!

A victory for ancient Sumeria, the Middle Ages and 18th-century Europe! By jimminy, hoorah!

New HIV test

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Researcher boasts breakthrough in AIDS test

(Tuesday, June 15, 2004 Posted: 4:23 PM EDT (2023 GMT))

Any of you that know me, know I have some fairly unorthodox views about the HIV/AIDS issue. For now, let’s leave it at that. But this new screening process may be a real, solid breakthrough, ostensibly light-years ahead of even Kary Mullis’s Nobel-prize-winning PCR (polymerase chain reaction) technique. It sounds like this test actually gets at the genomic “heart” of HIV, rather than aimlessly counting fallen antibodies like the standard, scandalously unreliable tests do.


I got $20 that says this new test, if sound and if applied, drops the inflated AIDS rate in the USA by at least 10% per year.

A new test for the AIDS virus that detects proteins inside the microbe may be more sensitive than existing tests, U.S. researchers said.

The test, which can also be adapted to detect the misshapen prions that cause mad cow disease and related sicknesses, may be useful for screening donated blood and monitoring patients, the developers at the University of Maryland's Institute of Human Virology said Monday.

They said it is 25 times more sensitive than the best technology currently available.

Writing in the July issue of the American Journal of Clinical Pathology, Constantine's team said the new test detects an inner protein of the virus known as p24, rather than detecting antibodies or viral nucleic acids, as current tests do.

"Each virus particle contains about 3,000 molecules of p24 as compared with only two copies of nucleic acid, so there's a greater amount of target to detect," Constantine said.

"It's an advance over current methods in that we can detect down to the equivalent of two copies of RNA as compared with current methods which have been validated to only 50 copies," his colleague, Janet Barletta, added in a statement. . .

More on my favorite German superstrong mutant boy

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Gene mutation makes tot super strong

(CNN, AP, Thursday, June 24, 2004 Posted: 6:40 PM EDT (2240 GMT))

While I think some of these speculations are little too breathlessly optimistic, I am convinced this boy is a windfall. God bless him, I do sincerely pray.

Deutschland, Deutschland, Deutschland!

The boy's mutant DNA segment was found to block production of a protein called myostatin that limits muscle growth. The news comes seven years after researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore created buff "mighty mice" by "turning off" the gene that directs cells to produce myostatin. . . .

"Just decreasing this protein by 20, 30, 50 percent can have a profound effect on muscle bulk," said Kunkel, who is among the doctors participating in the Wyeth research.

Muscular dystrophy is the world's most common genetic disease. There is no cure and the most common form, Duchenne's, usually kills before adulthood. The few treatments being tried to slow its progression have serious side effects.

Muscle wasting also is common in the elderly and patients with diseases such as cancer and AIDS. . . .

Lee said he believes a myostatin blocker also could suppress fat accumulation and thus thwart the development of diabetes. Lee and Johns Hopkins would receive royalties for any myostatin-blocking drug made by Wyeth.

. . . a mystotatin-blocking drug could help other groups of people, including astronauts and others who lose muscle mass during long stints in zero gravity or when immobilized by illness or a broken limb.

The article ended by mentioning possible gains in poultry production. But, I tell ya, since having read Margaret Atwood's chilling and vibrant Oryx and Crake, I get nothing but the bowel-loosening shivers thinking about the future of the poultry industry. ChickieNobs, anyone?

Going up?

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Elevator to the stars

(CNN, Friday, June 25, 2004 Posted: 10:08 PM EDT (0208 GMT) )

President Bush wants to return to the moon and put a man on Mars. But scientist Bradley C. Edwards has an idea that's really out of this world: an elevator that climbs 62,000 miles into space. . . .

Edwards' elevator would climb on a cable made of nanotubes _ tiny bundles of carbon atoms many times stronger than steel. The cable would be about three feet wide and thinner than a piece of paper, but capable of supporting a payload up to 13 tons.

The cable would be attached to a platform on the equator, off the Pacific coast of South America where winds are calm, weather is good and commercial airplane flights are few. The platform would be mobile so the cable could be moved to get out of the path of orbiting satellites. . . .

The space elevator is not a new idea. A Russian scientist, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, envisioned it a century ago. And Arthur C. Clarke's novel "The Fountains of Paradise," published in 1979, talks of a space elevator 24,000 miles high, and permanent colonies on the moon, Mercury and Mars. . . .

He envisions launching sections of cable into space on rockets. A "climber" -- his version of an elevator car -- would then be attached to the cable and used to add more lengths of cable until eventually it stretches down to the Earth. A counterweight would be attached to the end in space.

Edwards likens the design to "spinning a ball on a string around your head." The string is the cable and the ball on the end is a counterweight. The Earth's rotation would keep the cable taut.

The elevator would be powered by photo cells that convert light into electricity. A laser attached to the platform could be aimed at the elevator to deliver the light, Edwards said.

I would hate to get stuck in this thing. Then again, such would have good potential to outdo the opening scene in the movie Speed.

("Zero-gravity pop quiz, hot shot!")

You're getting sleepy, verrrry sleepy...

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Hibernating primate found in tropics

(Reuters, Thursday, June 24, 2004 Posted: 10:24 AM EDT (1424 GMT))

Bears and groundhogs escape the cold winter months by hibernating but scientists said Wednesday the trait was not limited to animals living in chilly climates.

Researchers in Germany have found that lemurs in Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, where winter daytime temperatures rise above 86 degrees Fahrenheit, hibernate in tree holes for seven months of the year.

"To our knowledge, our findings are the first physiological confirmation of prolonged hibernation by a tropical mammal as well as the first proof of hibernation in a primate," said Gerhard Heldmaier, of Philipps University in Marburg, Germany, in a report in the science journal Nature.

"This study shows hibernation has nothing to do with cold -- it may happen even in a hot or warm environment," he added. . . .

"It is an adaptation to get through periods when food is scarce. It is a mechanism of energy saving," said Heldmaier. . . .

America's youth: too fragile for their own damn good

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”High court bars Internet porn law enforcement” (CNN, AP, Tuesday, June 29, 2004 Posted: 11:16 AM EDT (1516 GMT))

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a law meant to punish pornographers who peddle dirty pictures to Web-surfing kids is probably an unconstitutional muzzle on free speech.

The high court divided 5-to-4 over a law passed in 1998, signed by then-President Clinton and now backed by the Bush administration. ...

Holding a new trial will allow discussion of what technology, if any, might allow adults to see and buy material that is legal for them while keeping that material out of the hands of children. ...

Never mind for now about keeping children out of the hands of people "protected" from this law by this court decision. Our first priority, as you all know, is to remove every bolt from the doors of public decency and inflate the public consciousness with visions of Twinks and HottTotts.
"We're very pleased with the decision," ACLU lawyer Ann Beeson said. "The status quo is still with us and the court made it safe for artists, sex educators and Web publishers to communicate with adults without risking jail time." ...

The law, which never took effect, would have authorized fines up to $50,000 for the crime of placing material that is "harmful to minors" within the easy reach of children on the Internet.

Simple solution: determine by a battery of federally funded child psychology and psychoanalytic studies that chidlren actually aren't as susceptible to "harmful" (schmarmful) material as every generation prior to us has believed. Brilliant, I smell grant!
The law also would have required adults to use access codes and or other ways of registering before they could see objectionable material online.

How draconian!
For now, the law, known as the Child Online Protection Act, would sweep with too broad a brush, Kennedy wrote. "There is a potential for extraordinary harm and a serious chill upon protected speech" if the law took effect, he said. ...

People of America, people of America, this is a public service announcement:

Above all we must protect adults' rights to see children getting boinked. We must not, I repeat, must not, err on the side of caution to protect children from the pedophilia industry.
The justices unanimously struck down the first version of a child-protection law passed in 1996, just as the Internet was becoming a commonplace means of communication, research and entertainment. ...

Material that is indecent but not obscene is protected by the First Amendment. Adults may see or purchase it, but children may not. ...

Simple solution: download that nifty new Newspeak Editor, version 3.0. These fiendish prol nuances between "obscene" and "indecent" simply must go. Children need to toughen up anyway. ("Here, twink, twink, twink...!")
The case is Ashcroft v. ACLU, 03-218.

Things people say

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Not I, but another:

[Some people] say that [a] crucifix freezes salvation history at Good Friday. [A] bare cross, on the other hand, takes that history all the way through Easter. The absence of a corpus
symbolizes the risen Christ.

No, it doesn't. All it can mean is that Christ is not on the cross. But where is he? Moldering away in the tomb? That's what the skeptic would say, and he'd have a point.

If you want a symbol for the Resurrection, it can't be either the crucifix or the bare cross. It must be the empty tomb. I have never seen a church feature a representation of the tomb on its steeple.

Yes, both the crucifix and bare cross "point" toward the Resurrection, but they do not artistically show it. The crucifix shows Good Friday. The bare cross shows--what? The situation on Palm Sunday, as the Romans tidied up Golgotha in anticipation of whoever would be sent their way next? One could argue that way.

The bare cross, as an artistic symbol, is vague. The crucifix, pointing to a narrow sliver of time, is closer to a snapshot.

Rogaine for America's skies

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The Comeback of Bald Eagles – No Longer Endangered Species (6/10/04)

The national bird has made a comeback in the last few decades, after being on the verge of extinction from vast DDT poisoning in the ‘60s and ‘70s that thinned their eggshells and crashed their birth rate, destruction of their habitats with the growth of the country, contamination of waterways and food sources, and shootings by ranchers trying to protect their sheep. ... In 1997, they were down-listed from the federally endangered species list. Endangered species are those that are in danger of extinction throughout all of its range. Threatened species are likely to become endangered in the near future.

According to Environmental Defense, a New York-based conservation group, there are more than 7,678 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the contiguous 48 states. In 1963, there were 417 pairs. ...

Still, it will need special protection and will be safeguarded under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the federal Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940 that prohibits killing or selling eagles. No one can “take, transport, sale, barter, trade, import and export.” Possession is illegal without a permit. This includes eagle parts, nests, and eggs. Possession of a feather or other body part is a felony with a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment. ...


Only a few species have “fought their way back from the United States’ endangered species list.” They include the California gray whale, the American alligator,

Gooooo, Gators!

and the bald eagle.

Oh, open a window! It stinks like wide-open Amorphophallus titanum in here!

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"Stinky Flower Set to Bloom After 60 Years" (CNN, DONNA TOMMELLEO, 29 June 2004)

A giant exotic plant that has not bloomed in the Northeast in more than 60 years is ready to flower at the University of Connecticut's greenhouses. The "corpse flower" has the odor of 3-day-old road kill, and UConn botanists couldn't be more excited.

Once open, the spiked, bright red bloom even resembles rotting meat, a veritable welcome mat for the insects that pollinate it - flies and carrion beetles. ...

Already at 4 feet high, the flower could reach more than 6 feet high and at least that wide when it opens up.

Web cam:

All we need now is this thing to start singing homicidal duets with Rick Moranis. "Feed me!"

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Bad seed

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A North Carolina woman recently won $400,000 in a medical malpractice suit against a fertility clinic because she was inseminated with "garbage sperm" and suffered traumatic uteran contractions. Her winnings were up from an original suit of only $10,000.

"N.C. Woman Wins Mistaken Insemination Case" (CNN, AP, 29 June 2004)

Chambliss, 37, walked into the clinic in August 2002 for her 12th attempt at pregnancy. A nurse practitioner inseminated her with the contents of an unlabeled syringe. The syringe contained unprepared sperm left over from another client's procedure two days before.

"'Sperm mixup' lawsuit trial begins" (WECT 6, Nicole Konkal, 24 June 2004)

"It was the worst day of my life," Chambliss said as she wiped away tears. "They took unwashed, left over, what they call 'garbage sperm', and they shot that into my uterus."

"New Testimony: Botched Insemination Trial" (WWAYTV 3, 24 June 2004)

Kelly's life partner Caroline Chambliss also took the stand to testify. Caroline explained what happened after she helped the nurse practitioner inject the semen into Kelly during the botched procedure in 2002. "Immediately...she grabbed her abdomen and said something's gone wrong," Caroline recalled for jurors. "She doubled over in pain...she couldn't control her bowel movements...she began vomiting."

Augustine Day by Day - June 29 - Peter, Figure of the Church

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"Now if the line of bishops who succeed one another is to be considered, with how much certainty and with real advantage do we begin with Saint Peter? He was the figure of the whole Church, and our Lord said to him: 'Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' Thus, the certain hope of the faithful, which rests not on human beings but on God, will never be destroyed."

-- Letter 53, 2-3

In response to Peter's confession of Christ's divine sonship (in Matthew 16), Christ confessed Peter as the rock of the Church, mysteriously and incredibly fusing God's own rock-solid strength with Peter's apostolic authority as well as with his rock-like confession of faith. Leaving aside for the moment the implications of the fact that Christ showed Peter a remarkable singularity of prominence among the Apostles, this quote emphasizes the more general principle that the perpetual solidity of the Church rests on God by means of an historical - that is, incarnate - episcopal succession.

Prayer. Lord, teach me what I should teach, teach me what I should hold fast.

-- Letter 166, 10

June 29

Christian Heritage - June 29 - The Fisherman

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"If Christ had first chosen a man skilled in public speaking, such a man might well have said: 'I have been chosen on account of my eloquence.' If he had chosen a senator, the senator might have said: 'I have been chosen because of my rank.' If his first choice had been an emperor, the emperor surely might have said: 'I have been chosen for the sake of the power I have at my disposal.' Let these worthies keep quiet and defer to others; let them hold their peace for a while. I am not saying they should be passed over or despised; I am simply asking all those who can find any grounds for pride in what they are to give way to others just a little.

"Christ says: Give me this fisherman, this man without education or experience, this man to whom no senator would deign to speak, not even if he were buying fish. Yes, give me him; once I have taken possession of him, it will be obvious that it is I who am at work in him. Although I meant to include senators, orators, and emperors among my recruits, even when I have won over the senator I shall still be surer of the fisherman. The senator can always take pride in what he is; so can the orator and the emperor, but the fisherman can glory in nothing except Christ alone."

You have caught me, O Lord. Now, I pray, make me but your fisherman in the sea of your love. May I use no other hook than the Cross, and no other bait than your grace and truth.

Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430), Sermo 43, 5-6

Augustine was a daft admirer of classical literature, received some formal training in classical rhetoric and longed to be a professional orator. But he sacrificed that ambition in order to be a priest and bishop for the people of God.

Arm in arm we must go

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"Catholics first U.S. church to endorse gay-marriage ban"(AP, 25 June 2004)

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops Friday endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage. He urged all Roman Catholics to lobby for its passage.

The statement from Bishop Wilton Gregory was the first from the American church backing a specific amendment that would deny recognition of same-sex marriages. ...

Catholics are the largest denomination in the country, with 63.7 million members. The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's second-largest denomination with 16.3 million members, also has backed an amendment against gay marriage, as have several other conservative religious groups.

Conservative Protestants are organizing "Marriage Protection Sunday" on July 11, encouraging pastors and religious educators to address the topic, then mobilize congregants to lobby their senators the next day.

Several other denominations oppose a constitutional amendment.

Twenty-six religious organizations, including the Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Union for Reform Judaism, have together urged Congress to reject the legislation.

Meanwhile, however, "Presbyterians to Wrangle Over Gay Clergy" (AP, Richard Ostling, 28 June 2004)

Deep rifts over homosexuality have worsened among Episcopalians and United Methodists over the past year, and now the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is getting ready to continue its divisive debate over gay clergy.

The 2.4 million-member church's weeklong national legislative assembly begins Saturday in Richmond, Va., where liberals will take up new attacks against the church's strict law barring actively gay clergy and lay officers.

I was born and raised a Presbyterian (PCUSA), and a few years ago I made my peace with where the PCUSA is headed, but this still really stings.

In related news,
"'Rainbow-Colored' Communion Bread Surfaces at Methodist Gathering"

(Agape Press, Jim Brown, 15 June 2004).

Where's the beef?

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"Atkins' affects conception chances'"

(by Caroline Ryan, BBC News Online health staff in Berlin, 28 June 2004)

The research team said these findings, along with similar research in cows, meant it would be "prudent" of women who were trying to conceive to limit their protein intake to around 20% of their diet.

Sports nuts

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Apparently, a family in Texas has named their son, ESPN, in honor of the sports network. The best part is, the boy is only one of three known children in the USA to have the same name (all of which are pronounced "Espen").

This is the ultimate in vicarious athleticism. At the highest level of sportsmanship, you could be a fine athlete. One level down, you could raise a fine athlete. A level down from that, you could name your kid after a famous athlete. Even farther down is the option of naming your kid after a famous sportscaster, like, Harry Carey, or Marv Albert ("Yes!"). But then, at the bottom of the fan-atic barrel, there is this: naming your kid after a broadcast company that reports what real athletes do.

It reminds me of the joke my roommate, DJ Skull Fog, made when some friends of ours got into a fantasy football league: "Yeah, man, I'm such a loser I can't even handle that; I'm into tracking the people that play fantasy football." On the bright side, at least this kid won't have an inferiority complex. I mean, he's bound to be a better athlete than ESPN by the sheer fact of having legs and a torso.

Of related interest, I read a few years ago about parents -- more than a few couples -- trying to cut deals with major corporations to "contract" their kids as living ads in exchange for an advertising fee. Thankfully, I don't think this couple is pushing that angle. I can hear it now.

"Coca Cola Wilson McCabe, stop hitting your brother this instant!"

"Oh, Pilsbury, you're so ticklish!"

"Raaaaaaid! Come here now!"

What pseudo-scientific crap

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And I’m not referring to Cdl. Trujillo or the Vatican. I’m referring to the EU haters in this BBC News article, "EU criticises Vatican's condom 'bigotry'" (BBC NEWS: Mukul Devichand, BBC Panorama, 2004/06/27 10:05:00 GMT)". (Incidentally, I don't know why Devichand doesn't capitalize AIDS.)

The European Union has condemned Catholic Church "bigotry" over the use of condoms to fight HIV. ...

Mr Nielsen said: "They are hurting and bringing into great danger the lives of millions out there."

His comments were in response to a Vatican paper that claimed the HIV virus - which leads to Aids [oy, don't get me started; see Peter Duesberg's book, Inventing the AIDS Virus, to get the rest of the story on this modern epidemiological mythos -- EBB] - can pass through latex condoms and cause infection.

The paper, published by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, backs up its claims with scientific references. ...

Cardinal Trujillo, who is known in the Vatican for his hard-line stance on contraception, told Panorama last year: "The Aids virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the sperm."

He said: "Scientists realise that there is a degree of uncertainty - it might be 15%, 18%, or 20%."

In his paper, Cardinal Trujillo argued that there could be "millions of leaking condoms".

He said there was no such thing as safe sex, adding that sex with condoms was like playing "Russian roulette" with Aids.

Cardinal Trujillo also argued that promoting family values would be more effective against HIV than condoms - giving Uganda as an example of a country where abstinence and monogamy had reduced HIV prevalence. ...

Mr Nielsen, EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said: "This is where bigotry gets into the big discussion."

He condemned the Vatican's "lack of love for human beings" and "unwillingness to take their situation seriously". …

But Bishop Rafael Llano Cifuentes, Auxiliary Bishop of Rio de Janeiro, told the programme "people are being deceived" by the message that condoms can prevent HIV infection.

He said: "The Church is a mother. What mother would allow her son to go on a plane if she knew there was a 15% chance it would crash?"

Here you have a man, a cardinal in the largest Christian fellowship on the planet, whose entire ministerial focus is on the ethics and scientific exploration of sex. He makes a scientifically supported, verifiable, common-sense claim and gets blasted as unloving and backwards. If the EU wants to trump the Vatican on this, they need only demonstrate Cdl. Trujillo et al. were either lying or gravely mislead by faulty research. Whining about the inhumane impracticality of forbidding the use of condoms sounds nice, but is does nothing to reduce the scientific merit of Trujillo’s claims. (Granted, Trujillo may wrong, but I have yet to see countermanding evidence.) Perhaps you've heard the anecdote of the molecular biologists at a cnoference on AIDS. When asked if they would have sex with a condom with an infected person, not one of them raised their hand. Trujillo is merely stating what electron microscopes can show us and what many in the virological world already know.

The complaints by these EU figures betray the same microwave mentality I discussed below in my discussion of contraception. Of course foregoing the ease of condomized sex is an uphill battle. Doing the right thing is seldom as easy as our condom culture would like. The key is not to apply a quick-fix inferior solution (i.e., condoms), but to work for the long-term reorientation of people’s values. Trying to climb up a latex ladder out of the AIDS crisis – which, you must know, is not equivalent to the so-called HIV crisis – only strengthens people’s willingness to play with sex and disease. The faster and farther we push the envelope on public health with such practices as an over-reliance on anti-bacterials and band-aid solution contraceptives, the sooner we will face the health care collapse Laurie Garret so ably discusses in her books, The Coming Plague and Betrayal of Trust.

Monday, June 28, 2004

I don't listen to it for the lyrics

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You've heard it before: vulgar, lewd music gets a pass because the buyer doesn't “really listen to the lyrics,” he just digs the music. What rubbish. Before you tell me lyrics are not what you're buying on a CD, remind the artist not to bother recording them in the first place. How many times have I caught myself singing along to a song I thought I didn't know, much less like? Words are an inextricable part of most musical experience and whether we think we can tune them out or not, they influence us. This, the verbal nature of music, is especially true with rap music (not to mention Gregorian chant).

Now, I'm all about the beats and mixes of rap and R&B. But I have some serious reservations about a lot of what passes for rap lyrics. Call me a cracker with a prudish stick up my rear – go ahead, I’ve had worse – but I simply refuse to endure some of the vitriol that is spewed forth by many rappers. Not that I blame them. Life in the ghetto, as my limited and eager experience has shown me, is tough. The sad and humorous part of it, though, is that a lot of thug rappers are straight-up frontin, for the simple fact that they're not mixing in the ghetto anymore. They got paid; life is no longer what they're singing about; it’s time to quit frontin. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to De La Soul, Jurassic 5 or Del The Funky Homosapien about these celebrity thug rappers and how they've sold their dignity and sold out their roots. They not only know better, but sound a lot better than me, too.

I generally appreciate rap because it tells it like it is; it shows us, especially us "non-minority" folks, what life on “the other side” is about. In fact, if you know me, you know I have a decent, albeit usually old school, hip-hop and rap selection. (What's more – don't laugh – I've been deigned “an honorary black” before. Just goes to show race is about love and truth, not melatonin.) But there's a line. There’s a line between telling it like it is and telling how it should be. It’s one thing to set life in the ghetto to a beat; it’s quite another to encourage violent or lascivious behavior with your music. It’s one thing to rap about the poison in the ghetto; it’s quite another to poison the ghetto by rapping. It's one thing to rap prophetically against the corruption of the ghetto; it's quite another to rap the ghetto into a deeper coma of infantilization. And I refuse to endorse music that poisons urban USAmerica any more than it’s already suffered.

The following article (“Song Encourages Violence Towards Pregnant Women, Group Says,” News, Melanie Hunter) highlights what I mean.

A pro-life group is warning that a popular song advocates violence against pregnant women.

Black Americans for Life, an outreach of the National Right to Life Committee, said the remixed version of singer Usher's song "Confessions," featuring rapper Joe Budden, suggests violent action against a mother when she is unwilling to abort her child. …

The song includes lyrics such as:

"....Pray that she abort that,
If she's talkin' 'bout keeping' it,
One hit to the stomach,
She's leakin' it

Gardner said the lyrics illustrate the need for legislation like the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, also known as Laci and Connor's law, which makes it a federal crime to harm or kill an unborn child when committing an act of violence against the mother.

"What is tragic is that these suggestive lyrics often become a reality. This is why legislation like the Unborn Victims of Violence Act is crucial in protecting the lives of pregnant women and their unborn children," Gardner added.

The pro-life group is urging African-Americans to call BMG Entertainment, the parent group of Usher's record label LaFace/Zomba, to request that they pull support of the remixed version of the song.

The group is also urging blacks to call their local radio stations that play RB and hip hop music to request that "Confessions (remix)" be pulled from their playlists and from the air.

O, how backward those sandheaded ancient Israelites were, what with their petty, tribal penalties for injuring a fetus (cf. Exd 21:22-25).

Stop me if ya heard it before...

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So there was this symposium of gay theologians, right? They were debating whether Jesus was divine or just simply fabulous. Ba dum bum! (Props to Thomas Tucker.)

Augustine Day by Day - June 28 - Prayer to Christ Within Us

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"Remember, there is one who listens to you, so do not hesitate to pray to him. But he abides within you. You need only purify the inmost recesses of your heart.

"He is the Lord our God, the Word of God, the Word made human, Son of the Father, Son of God and Son of Man."

-- Sermon on John 10, 1

Prayer. O Word before all time, by whom time was made, born in time although you are eternal life, you call us who are bound by time and make us eternal.

-- Commentary on Psalm 101 (2), 10

June 28

Christian Heritage - June 28 - The Glory of God is the Human Person Fully Alive

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"The Son is with the Father from the beginning. He was to reveal to the human race visions of prophecy, the diversity of spiritual gifts, his own ways of ministry, the glorification of the Father, all in due order and harmony, at the appointed time and for our instruction. Where there is order, there is also harmony; where there is harmony, there is also correct timing; where there is correct timing, there is also advantage.

"The Word became the steward of the Father's grace for the advantage of all, for whose benefit he made such wonderful arrangements. He revealed God to human beings and presented them to God. He safeguarded the invisibility of the Father to prevent people from treating God with contempt and to set before them a constant goal toward which to make progress. On the other hand, he revealed God to human beings and made them visible in many ways to prevent them from being totally separated from God and so cease to be. The glory of God is the human person fully alive; the life of human beings is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation gives life to all who live upon the earth, much more does the manifestation of the Father through the Word give life to those who see God."

Irenaeus of Lyons (AD 140-200), Adversus Haer. 4, 20, 5-7: SC 100, 640-642.644-648

Irenaeus was the bishop of Lyons and is best known for his monumental apologetic, Against the Heresies. At the center of his theology was a vision of the unity and recapitulation of all things in Christ.

Now, go, find life: seek God's face.

Sex is love, but sterile sex is not sex.

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[WARNING: I speak quite explicitly about some sexual topics in this post, so if that level of frankness bothers you, tread carefully.]

I am going to discuss a controversial subject, and many of you may not like what I have to say. But the topic needs to be addressed. I’ve had the following (and many other related) thoughts on my mind for quite some time. Now is simply when I’ve decided to get them out in the open. Away we go.

I have a feeling that many, even most, of you don't know that I am rather vehemently opposed to artificial birth control. That's right: I think sexual contraception is immoral. Some people, when they discover this dark secret about me, have said, "Isn't that only something Catholics believe?" (as if that somehow automatically disqualifies it from credulity). Well, yes, it is a standard almost exclusively upheld by the Catholic Church -- today, that is. Prior to 1930, however, every major Christian fellowship on the planet -- Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, etc. -- objected just as strongly to contraception as an immoral and unbiblical practice. Luther, Calvin and Wesley, to name just a few major classical Protestant leaders, penned some of the most strident denunciations of birth control you could find. As far back as the Didache (c. AD 90), a magisterial reservoir of post-apostolic teaching, artificial birth control was condemned by the early Church right along with abortion as a foul, pagan practice. For literally two millennia, the rejection of contraception -- in principle if not, sadly, always in practice -- was a hallmark of the Church's holiness – its “differentness” -- from the world. But then at the 1930 Lambeth conference, the Anglican Church officially pronounced contraception to be acceptable in certain rare conditions. The dike was broken. The waters of sexual autonomy coursed over the USA and Europe like an icy flood.

I won’t go to any great lengths describing the effects this compromise has had on our culture. Do I really need to? Divorce, abortion, etc. Instead, I’ll let Steve Kellmeyer tell you a bit more about the harmful consequences of our devolution into a contraceptive society. Except for his overly grim conclusion, I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Kellmeyer. I strongly encourage you hear him out.

However, before I post his words on this topic, I might as well explain why I myself reject contraception. (To be honest, I feel obligated to do so almost entirely in virtue of the overwhelming light of Christian tradition pointing me that way. Who do I think I am to overrule the almost unanimous testimony of the Body of Christ?) For now, I won’t go into any great technical philosophical or theological depths about my position. Basically I reject contraception because it 1) brings deceit into the bedroom, 2) violates the obvious reproductive telos God designed in the sex act, 3) encourages sexual immaturity, and 4) gives men yet more freedom to trifle with women.

(Three prolegomena:

1) I will not address the obvious moral problem of abortifacient contraception, that is, contraceptives that kill a fertilized ovum. It’s one of my working assumptions that killing human life at any level of its development is wrong. Hence, in this discussion, when I refer to contraception, I have in mind the more “harmless,” pre-fertile forms of contraception, like condoms, diaphragms, spermicidals, etc.

2) I do consider masturbation, oral sex, handjobs and anal sex to be forms of contraception. In fact, those are forms of contraceptive sex par excellence: pure pleasure, risk-free, infertile. This is not to say we cannot enjoy sexual stimulation by these means. It simply means an ejaculatory, orgasmic climax of pleasure by these means is immoral.

3) Since this post's title might seem unfair to involuntarily infertile couples, I should clarify that I mean voluntarily sterile sex is not sex. Couples that suffer from natural fertility only underscore the perversity of freely chosen infertility (a.k.a., contraception). Infertility, in fact, may be the only handicap we as a people gleefully embrace. I hope it is clear to you that there is an essential moral difference between a couple performing sex acts they have found to be infertile despite their best intentions, and a couple choosing to perform them contraceptively knowing they would otherwise be fertile.)

First, contraception is sexual deception. When a husband and wife have sex, they are saying “I do” in the most intimate way possible. Marriage is a sacrament of the total self-giving of a man and a woman to each other in the ambit of God's love. Each sex act is a renewal of a couple’s wedding vows. We see plainly how absurd it is for a man to say he gives himself fully to his wife but refuses to share his money with her. That is fiscal contraception; it’s a fiscal limitation on the total self-giving to which God, in marriage, calls us. Contraception is simply a sexual limitation we place on that total self-giving. It is wrong for a man or woman to say “I do” at the altar but then say “I do not” in the sex act. Contraception is wrong because it is not only a lie about what marriage is, but also a theft of your person -- in its fertile dimensions -- after you claimed to "sell yourself" totally to your spouse.

At this point someone might retort that contraception is not bad if it is mutually accepted by a mature couple. But no, that just further limits their self-giving. Two wrongs, mutual or not, don't make a right. Mutual or unilateral, contraceptive marriage is still a perverse limitation of the total self-giving -- not to mention total other-receiving -- that God intends marriage to be. In effect the man is saying to the woman, “I won’t give myself this much,” and a wife that accepts this condition is, in effect, saying, “Well, good, I don’t want you that much either.” Now, pardon my frankness, but when a man puts his penis inside a woman, he is saying something quite plain and quite profound: “I am all yours.” But if he also puts a condom over his penis, he is saying something equally profound, only less plain: “I am not quite all yours. My fertility is still mine.” Contraception is saying “I love you” with your fingers crossed. A condom does not simply put a physical barrier between a couple; it puts a spiritual barrier between them as well. I am sorry again to be perhaps too explicit, but if God used contraception, He would claim to be inside us by the Holy Spirit, but would actually maintain a protective barrier, a sort of heavenly condom, between us and Himself.

As for the second point, is it really that hard to see what sex is “for”? Is it that hard to see where sex “aims”? Does anyone really think sex won’t, in almost every case, produce a child? No, no, no. Sex is as plain as the birds and the bees because that’s how God made it. But when we practice contraception, we are trying to fool ourselves. We are trying to condition ourselves to believe sex exists, or functions, on two different planes – first, the reproductive level, second, the hedonistic level – when we can plainly see it actually exists on both planes at once. Sex is a reproductive act of pleasure; sex is a pleasurable act of reproduction. Whichever way you say it, whichever emphasis you prefer, is irrelevant. What is relevant is that contraception tries to sever the mysterious duality of sex. What God has put together, let not man put asunder. When we use contraception, we are, in effect, telling God we know better than He does how to “use” sex. We place ourselves in control over the natural reproductive cycle, rather than working with and respecting the periods of fertility and infertility God places in a woman.

Although Mr. Kellmeyer addresses this point in his essay, I feel I should also mention the relationship between homosexuality and contraception. Not enough people realize it, but the Church’s rejection of homosexuality is actually derivative from its more fundamental rejection of contraceptive sex. The error in much of the current discussion of gay sex is that we fail to respect the fact that the fecundity of sex is actually more fundamental than the particular mechanics of sex. What I mean is that the rightness of heterosexual sex is not based on how straight people have sex, but on what sex itself means. The problem is not that gay people “do sex wrong” (in fact, literally ass-backwards), but that they do not “do sex” at all. Gay sex is immoral not because it is not heterosexual but because it is sterile. Gay sex is immoral, in part, because it is a willful participation in contraceptive sex, just without the bells and whistles modern “sexual therapy” offers us. To be quite honest, the only difference between straight contraceptive sex and gay sex is that the former is, for now, more acceptable to our aesthetic sensibilities. (The same goes for masturbation; gay sex is simply masturbation done with the help of another person’s body, a whole-body handjob.)

It was this simple, thunderous epiphany that set me against the platitudes we hear so often today that gay sex is “just as good as” straight sex. Gay sex is not just as good as straight sex, objectively speaking, for the sheer fact that, in every instance, gay sex is infertile and it thereby allows the lovers to be selfish, “free” from the “risk” of having a child (as if children were the latest STD). Beacuse it is risk-free, gay sex is inherently selfish, and for that reason alone I find it morally flawed.

Now, it is a separate consideration whether gay platonic love is immoral, a proposition I deny. The problem is that gay love, in so many ways, even by its greatest advocates, has been reduced to gay sex. But please note: I am objecting to gay sex, not "gayness" as such. We would all do well in these discussions to differentiate between the whole cosmos of gay life and the strictly infertile nature of gay sex. I am addressing and critiquing the latter, not the former. I openly and readily admit there is much good in many of the aims of the homosexual community. But what I flatly deny is any moral good in gay sex as such. Even so, having said all that, I’m willing to meet gay advocates halfway: gay sex is just as good as most contemporary straight sex because most contemporary straight sex is just as gleefully sterile as gay sex always is.

To proceed, the third reason (in this present discussion) I reject of contraception is that it encourages sexual immaturity. By this I mean that contraception allows us to enjoy consequence-free sex. One of the main defenses I’ve heard for contraception (from Christians, I might add) is that it gives couples the "freedom" to "enjoy each other" at the "spur of the moment" without the "fear" of bringing another child into the world. What a nightmare, the argument goes, what a source of unneeded marital stress it must be to worry during every sex act whether the wife will get pregnant, right? Well, no. To be honest, I find such reasoning miserable and shallow. Contraception makes us immature lovers because, under its seductive sway, we succumb to the fear of life. It's already bad enough that we fear death when the only thing we should fear is God. Contraception only makes things worse by giving us a voluntarily habitual fear of death and life, but not God.

Remember, the argument is that contraception helps couples express their love more "spontaneously," less child-consciously, in those sudden moments of raw passion. But this argument rests on a grave underestimation not only of what passionate love is but also of what children are. Passion, technically speaking, means suffering. The etymology of the word "passion" conveys the idea that you can suffer (passio) in two ways: either under the wiles of vice or under the trials of life, either under sin or under the virtuous fight against sin. "Passionate" love, then, comes in two flavors: hedonistic and monogamous. Contraceptive passion is the former; but real, deep, mature, Christian passion is the latter. The porn industry is passionate in the first sense of the word. It's a bad flavor of passion, but we all know it too well. Jesus Christ, by contrast, was and is passionate in the second sense. That, my friends, is a flavor we know all too poorly. When people say they want to be free to love a lover without fear, they mean they want to love in a short-term, hedonistic way. They want the passion they feel to flourish and die in the strictly defined boundaries of the sex act. They want the porn flavor of passion. Contraceptive sex makes us immature because it rivets our focus on the hedonistic intensity of each isolated sex act.

But mature, Christian sexual passion is wide open to the lifelong extension of
sexual passion. It is the flavor of passion we see in Jesus Christ. The crucial difference between fertile and contraceptive sex is that the former wants the intensity of sexual passion as well as the duration of it in(to) the drama of raising a child. Contraceptive sex fractures the love of a married couple into discrete, sterile -- albeit intensely pleasurable -- events. In contraceptive sex, there is no continuity of love once the lovers climax. Fertile, Christian sex, by contrast, protects the continuous totality of married love by letting the hot blood of sexual passion flow into the veins of a new life for as long as God sees fit to let them extend. Raising that new life will only deepen a couple’s passion by extending it beyond that brief episode sexual bliss into each day until they die.

Contraception is a symptomatic abuse of a fast-food culture, a microwave people. We like our sex short and sweet and ready to roll, not heavy and drawn out as an act of love over the course of pregnancy and child-raising. Contraceptive sex is flash-bulb passion; Christian sex is a whole family album. Contraceptive, immature sex is meant to limit the effects of so-called “passion” to what we feel for a few moments. It is decidedly not meant to open the rest of our lives to sharing the results of those passionate moments. Like contraception itself, contraceptively hedonistic passion limits the total self-giving of biblical love. It is the way passionate lovers say, “I love you passionately -- but only for right now.” Fertile, biblical passion, on the other hand, is the way people say, “I love you now and if we shall raise a child together out of this moment.”

Recall that we are made in the image of God. Part of being made in His image includes the ability to make other people in our image. We are fecund because God is fecund. It follows, then, that being fecund is good. In fact, every increase in being is inherently good, because there is no more fundamental a good than being itself, by sheer virtue of the fact that all things partake of God’s Being. Sex, then, is not merely a “Yes!” to our beloved -- which, as an act of love, is also a “Yes!” to God -- but is also a “Yes!” to being itself -- which is, as I say, also a “Yes!” to God’s sheer goodness of being.

But contraception is a “No!” to being. It is, therefore, also a “No!” to God. While every sex act is, at some level, a “Yes!” to God, every child is a “Yes!” from God to us. Every child is a direct gift from the hand of God. Every child, even the ones marred and handicapped by being brought by fallen parents into a fallen world, is God’s way of telling us, “I am the Author of life and life is good!” The tragic problem is that when we short-circuit sex with contraception, we also stifle the full expression of our dignity as fecund, divine image-bearers in marriage, and, by degrees, in the world. When we indulge in contraception we make ourselves immature by forfeiting our rights to grow and live as (non-Christian) people made in the image of God, and as (Christian) people being remade in His image.

Finally, the fourth reason I reject contraception is that it allows men to play with women. Think about it. If a man knows he can just slip on a jimmy cap, he also knows he can fool around with his secretary without any – well, almost without any – risk of getting caught: no STDs, no unwanted kids, no semen as evidence. There’s no need to elaborate on this point. Every man reading what I’m saying knows, at some dark primal level, how tempting it would be to have consequence-free sex with any woman he meets. And, that ladies and gentlemen, is the terrifying power of contraception. It’s the latest and greatest weapon in the arsenal of the ancient sex wars. With the dagger of contraception in hand, a man can look at a woman and say, “Ha! You can’t get me. My seed is mine and I can do what I like with you, or at least parts of you.” What's even sadder is that, with the help of contraception, a woman can look just as savagely back at a man and say, “Ha! You can't get me either. My fertility is mine, and this little pill means you can’t get to me. I can do whatever I like with you, or at least parts of you.” Fertility is one of the greatest gifts – or weapons – God has given us. But contraception is our way of stripping each other of that gift, of disarming each other for our own protection.

Well, that’s more than enough for now. Without further ado, please give Mr. Kellmeyer a good hearing:

A Deafening Silence

Isn’t it odd? Although the leaders of dozens of Christian groups have denounced gay marriage, the rank and file have not had much to say about it. From such disparate sources as the Washington Post and Chuck Colson, the chattering class is beginning to become aware of a simple fact: most Christians don’t care.

It raises an obvious question: why don’t they care? Colson opines that the lack of outcry is due to pessimism and defeatism amongst the rank-and-file. Christians are so oppressed by the culture that they are throwing in the towel. Other Christian leaders pin the problem on larger distractions: the war in Iraq, the economy, etc. Everyone says it may have something to do with it being an election year, arguing that this is traditionally a time when controversial issues are avoided.

Bunk and balderdash.

Election years are precisely when controversial issues are embraced. Christians haven’t thrown in the towel: they are still pushing hard on things like television and radio decency controls, for example. Nor have they surrendered on a myriad of other issues. The problem is simply this: no one thinks homosexuality is a big deal. The left won this issue before the religious leaders even woke up to the idea that there might be a fight. And I can tell you exactly how it happened.

I became aware of the problem over a year ago in a discussion with a local activist. She and her husband were working to stop a strip bar from opening in a city neighborhood in Peoria, Illinois. They were gathering signatures in front of every church. I stopped after Mass to sign their petition, and to ask them a question. Peoria had recently passed an ordinance outlawing job or rent discrimination against active homosexuals. Why hadn’t I seen them out in front of the churches trying to stop that ordinance, which had been front page news just before the strip bar surfaced? The answer was simplicity itself: “Well, we don’t get into bedroom issues.”

“Really?” I responded. “So how is the door to a bar different from a door to a bedroom? They are both doors. They are both guarding access to private property. Would you drop your opposition to the strip bar if someone actually slept there every night, thus making it a bedroom? Would you drop your opposition if the bar featured live sex instead of simply featuring strippers?”

She was offended by the question. She insisted that gay sex was not something she had a right to an opinion on, but a strip bar was: it would lower property values.

You see? She was only allowed to have an opinion on the strip bar because it wasn’t a bedroom issue, it was a tax issue, a property valuation issue. Gay marriage is neither a tax nor a property valuation issue – at least not in any obvious way – so Christians don't care.

But it goes much deeper than this. The Christian attitude towards sex is, today, very simple: “as long as no one is hurt,” you may engage in whatever sexual practice you like. Dr. Dobson of the Family Research Center has no problem with masturbation. Most Christian denominations have no problem with contraception. So why should we oppose gay sex or gay marriage? After all, what is the real difference between masturbating, having condomized sex, or having gay sex? Each provides about the same amount of physical gratification, and sex – like marriage – is primarily about gratification, right?

I am married as long as my spouse is willing to serve me, as long as I am being fed, as long as I am getting something out of the relationship. When that stops, when the relationship is “spiritually dead” or my spouse is getting physical pleasure elsewhere through an affair, then I can divorce. If we assume that this is a reasonable way to act, it is not possible to make a case opposing gay marriage.

The reason we can’t make the case is we don’t have a case, not anymore. You see, contraception within marriage redefined marriage, just as the Washington Post and the Pope predicted it would back in the 1930’s. Once contraception is acceptable, marriage is no longer about family, it is now about me. Now every relationship hinges on one thing: what’s in it for me?

The public acceptance of gay sex and gay marriage is functionally identical to public acceptance of contraception. Heterosexual contraception has already brought us legal abortion, a fifty percent divorce rate and a pornographic society: all of these problems mushroomed only after contraception was legalized. Gay marriage is just contraception without the chemicals or condoms. How can you convince a woman on the pill or a man with a wallet full of condoms that gay marriage is going to harm heterosexual marriage?

It can’t be done because it isn’t true. Marriage was dealt a death-blow when the Protestant Comstock laws were struck down. Once we were no longer permitted to forbid the manufacture or sale of contraceptives, we lost the ability to deal with deliberately sterilized sex in any form whatsoever. Like masturbation, gay sex and gay marriage are just another form of contraception. Indeed, the beauty of gay marriage is that their divorces are much less likely to impact children, since they will, by definition, tend not to have any. Contracepting heterosexuals know a kindred spirit when they see one. They certainly aren't going to cast a stone at gays.

The move to amend the Constitution to defend heterosexual marriage will fail. If it succeeds, it will follow Prohibition in being repealed. It cannot be otherwise.

No one quarrels about contraception anymore. The people who used to do so are mostly dead. Likewise, the only generation that quarrels about the gay issue will be dead in another thirty to sixty years. The next generation will care even less than this one about that topic. The next fight will be over pedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia, sado-masochism and the rest. And Christianity will lose those fights too. Pleasure is the measure. The war was over when we surrendered the Comstock laws. And that surrender could not have happened if Christians had not acquiesced.


A commentor on Mr. Kellmeyer's blog also felt he ended on too gloomy a note, but Mr. Kellmeyer had a reply worth reproducing here:

Well, [commentor], what can I say? When Simeon prophecied to Mary, he didn't exactly end on a high note either.

Your point about an increase in orthodoxy is well-taken, and that is precisely why I end the way I do. We could chastise Simeon, "What's with all the sword and piercing talk? The Saviour is here! Life will only get better now!"

Except we had to watch the crucifixion first.

The more orthodoxy becomes prevalent, that is, the more little Christs we have walking around, the more crucifixions we are going to see. That's what makes them little Christs, after all. I can predict that this culture will finish its descent this way precisely because I think we ARE getting more orthodoxy. The battle lines will become stark, even more stark than they already are. Our children will have to fight these battles. Pretending they won't is whistling in the dark, and it doesn't serve them or us or God.

Point well taken. Carry on.]

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Roses are red, roses are blue?

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"It is the 'Holy Grail' of horticulture and soon it could make the perfect present for Mother's Day: scientists have found a way to produce a blue rose."

(London Telegraph, David Harrison, 23 May 2004)

Next I want to see a blue rose with a human ear growing in the middle of the petals. And edible licorice thorns.

Tick tock tick tock...

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"Scientists have developed a method that aims to predict how fast a woman's biological clock is ticking and when she is likely to go through menopause."

(Reuters, Patricia Reaney, 16 June 2004)

By measuring the volume of ovaries with ultrasound, researchers in Scotland said Thursday that they can predict the reproductive age of a woman aged 25 to 51, or how many eggs she may has left.... ...

Women are born with an estimated 800,000 eggs but the number dwindles with age. At about 37, when there are about 25,000 eggs left, the decline speeds up and the ovaries shrink until most of the eggs are depleted and menopause occurs [usually aruond age 50, +/- 7-8 years -- EBB]. ...

But the method will not work for women taking oral contraception because it decreases the size of the ovaries or for women suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome, a disorder that causes infertility.

Augustine Day by Day - June 27 - Come and Be Filled

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"Let us come to this Supper and be filled to satiety. And who have come to this Supper except the beggars, the sick, the lame, and the blind? Let the beggars come, for he invites us who became poor for our sakes. Let the sick come, for it is not the healthy who need a physician but the sick. Let the blind come and say to him: 'Give light to my eyes lest I sleep in death.'"

-- Sermon 112, 18

Prayer. "O God, come to me in your kindness. For you are the good and the beautiful, in whom, by whom, and through whom all things are good and beautiful."

-- Soliloquies 1, 1

June 27

Christian Heritage - June 27 - Believe the Message of the Holy Apostles

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"Christ had to be patient with Thomas when he said he would not believe and with the other disciples too when they thought they were seeing a ghost. Because of his desire to convince the whole world, he most willingly showed them the marks of the nails and the wound in his side; because he wished those who sought this evidence as a support for their faith to have no possible reason for doubt, he even took food although he had no need for it.

"But when anyone accepts what he has not seen, believing on the word of his teacher, the faith by which he honors the one his teacher proclaims to him is worthy of great praise. Blessed, therefore, is everyone who believes the message of the holy apostles who, as Luke says, were eyewitnesses of Christ's actions and ministers of the word. If we desire eternal life and long for a dwelling place in heaven, we must listen to them."

Cyril of Alexandria (AD ~444), On John 12, 22: PG 74, 729-736

Cyril, a brilliant theologian and major opponent of the Arian and Nestorian heresies, was the patriarch of Alexandria. He also presided over the council of Ephesus in 431, at which time the title of Mary as Theotokos, "the Mother of God," "the God-bearer," was solemnly recognized. Like so many official dogmatic statements the Church has made, this was merely a formal declaration of what the body of common believers had been believing and testifying to for centuries. It merely had to be expressed in a precise, binding manner in opposition to an heretical insurgency.

Everything is history.

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I mean that. Everything is history. Every mathematical equation is an historical narrative leading to the =. The numbers are historical figures, the functions are key events. Every physics experiment is an historical essay on the life and times of an atom. Each quantum is a revolt, each orbital a different social domain. Every biological study is actually just a biographical look into a lion's den. The alpha male is the sovereign, his harem is a sovereign's court. Every novel is a history, and the author's work on it, that history's historiography.

Everything is history. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is history. Now is history. I am history. You are history.

Now, have some history:

On May 22, 1856 representative Preston Brooks (Dem., South Carolina) entered the Senate chamber without a word and began beating abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner (Rep., Massachusetts) numerous times on the head with a metal-tipped cane. Why? Three days prior, Sumner had delivered a speech, entitled “Crime Against Kansas,” in which he openly mocked two pro-slavery Democrats, Stephen Douglas (Illinois) and Andrew Butler (South Carolina). The alleged crime against Kansas had to do with whether the former frontier territory would be admitted to the Union as a non-slave-holding or a slave-holding state. This option was afforded by the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska act (KNA).

Brooks was Butler's relative and was, obviously, outraged by Sumner's insults. So, narrow gutta-percha cane in hand, he strode into the Senate chamber and began beating Sumner over the head until Sumner passed out, bleeding profusely. In his frantic attempt to escape Brooks's attack, Sumner actually ripped his desk off the floor from its securing bolts. Sumner was carried away; meanwhile Brooks simply walked out. Both men became heroes for their respective supporters, Brooks as a crusader, Sumner as a martyr. It took Sumner three years to recover enough to return to political activity, in which he was engaged for another eighteen years. Brooks, on the other hand, was nearly censured by the House, resigned, was immediately re-elected and then died soon afterward at the age of thirty-seven. Butler's savage attack was a watershed event in the USA's slide into the Civil War. The lines of opposition were now clearly drawn, in senatorial as well as slave blood.

Stephen Douglas, whom Sumner had mocked, deserves a few more words of attention. Before his involvement with the momentous KNA, Douglas was fairly well known for his vigorous efforts to get a transnational railroad hub built in his hometown of Chicago. But he sprang to the forefront of the U.S. political landscape in 1854 when he successfully pushed the KNA through Congress. This act effectively nullified the Missouri Compromise of 1820. That compromise, drafted by Henry Clay, allowed for the entrance of Missouri into the Union as a slave state in exchange for the prohibition of slavery anywhere farther north and west of the state's southern border.

But Douglas's KNA eroded that barrier by allowing each territory to decide the slavery question according to “popular sovereignty,” a doctrine Douglas proposed as the most democratic solution to the slavery crisis. Unfortunately, the KNA led to some intense territorial fighting between pro-slavery "squatters" that swarmed in from Missouri and abolitionist settlers from the northeastern USA. Hence, Kansas became known as “Bleeding Kansas,” as well as “the Battleground for Freedom,” nicknames it still holds today. The stakes were so high because everyone knew Kansas would upset the precarious balance of power between abolitionist and pro-slavery states that had held up to 1854. Ultimately, on January 29, 1861, Kansas became a non-slave state, just in time to face the Civil War.

Douglass again returned to public notoriety by engaging in a famous series of debates in 1858 with the then-Senator Abraham Lincoln. Both men were vying to be senators of Illinois. Although Douglas won the senate race in 1858, he lost the presidential election to Lincoln in 1860. Meanwhile, on December 20, 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union. Then, on February 9, 1861, the Confederate States of America were formed in Montgomery, Alabama. Finally, on April 12, 1861, Confederate forces opened fire on Fort Sumter, thus beginning the Civil War. Interestingly, despite his prolonged opposition to Lincoln, Douglas joined forces with the Union at the outset of the Civil War in order to save the nation from a total sundering. Alas, he died soon thereafter in 1861.

The rest, as they say, is history.


A curse on both your houses!

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In Asia they use fists. In Africa they use Koranic death curses. In the USA, I guess, we just use F Bombs.

Ride the Snake! (ride the snake)

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I saw this ad for Matt Furey's Combat Conditioning over a year ago and was intrigued. Not enough, of course, to read any more about it. Until now. This is my kind of exercise. Isokinetics. Flexibility. Functional strength. No equipment but what God gave me. Take a gander. I'd love to hear Matt P's two cents about it.

Weight training, weight lifting and bodybuilding are NOT what the general public has been told. ...

Don't mean to scare the hell out of you, but the facts are mounting. In the March 13, 2003, edition of the Wall Street Journal, for example, it was shown that pushing yourself to lift heavier and heavier weights increases the risk of aneurysm, stroke, high blood pressure and other problems. ...

I was the total skeptic. Not only had I lifted weights for years, but after 21 years in the martial arts, I thought I'd seen it all. So I just didn't believe Matt Furey when he said you can get kick-butt fit with bodyweight calisthenics. I could bench 400 and squat 625. So there's no way that I was going to fall for something so "simple."

But I couldn't shake this feeling that Furey might be right. I had read about the Great Gama of India, a wrestler who followed this program and was unbeaten in 5,000 matches. In terms of size and strength, he was amazing. He was 5'7" and 260 pounds of streaming steel. And that was in the early 1900's - long before steroids.

I can train anywhere. I don't need more than a few square feet of carpet or pavement and I'm all set. I have absolutely no excuses and my body is loving me for it. I don't need any equipment. Just my own bodyweight.

I get a kick-butt workout done in 15 minutes or less. Sure, I could do more - but I've gotten incredible results with this amount - so why ruin a good thing?

Do you feel a draft?

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Not too likely, but it's out there. NewsMax tears the possibility to neocon shreds, but all I'll say is this: if I gotta go in, I want to go in as a medic or chaplain. Full stop. Discuss.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Augustine Day by Day - June 26 - Live from God for God

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Know that the Body of Christ can live from nothing else but the Spirit of Christ. Hence, when the Apostle Paul explains this bread to us, he says: "Because the bread is one, we though many are one Body."

O Sacrament of love! Sign of our unity! Bond of our fraternity! All who long for life have here its very source. Let them come here and believe, unite with you and live. Let them cling to the Body and live for God.

-- Sermon on John 26, 11

Prayer. Thanks be to him who is desired before he is seen, whose presence is felt and who is hoped for in the future.

-- Sermon 24, 1

June 26

Christian Heritage - June 26 - Life to Me Means Christ

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In all our actions and thoughts let us be intent more on the love of God than on knowledge and disputation. For love delights the soul and calms the conscience, drawing it away from the enjoyment of lesser delights and from the pursuit of our own glory. Learning without love does not lead to everlasting salvation but puffs up and ends in the most wretched ruin. Let our soul be courageous, then, in undertaking hard tasks for God; let it have the wisdom to savor heavenly things, not earthly; let it long to be enlightened by eternal wisdom and inflamed by that sweet fire that stirs us to love and desire the Creator alone and enables us to spurn all that is transitory. So far as transitory things are concerned, let us take comfort only in the fact that they do not last. In this present age we have no permanent resting place, but are ever seeking one that is to come not made by human hands, and we cry out: Life to me means Christ, and death I regard as a gain.

Richard Rolle (AD 1300-1349), The Fire of Love 5, 157-160

This is simply an awesome quote, worthy of some frutiful lectio divina. Richard Rolle was an English hermit and mystic.

Ein ausordentlich starkes Kind...

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You may have heard about the 5-year old German boy who is incredibly strong (c/o Tampa Bay Online, Matt Surman, 24 June 2004). The doctor that has had the most contact with him, Dr. Markus Schuelke, says he’s just “a normal boy.” The boy, whose identity is for now being kept confidential, has a dominant mutation in his myostatin gene. Apparently, he received the mutation from his mother, a former professional sprinter, though she had only had a recessive mutation (single allele). Although the myostatin mutation has been studied for a while in mice and cattle, this is the first documented case of it in a human.

Myostatin is responsible for limiting muscle growth. But because this Wunderkind has a crippled myostatin gene, his muscles are abnormally developed. One of the most exciting possible benefits of this mutation is, as the Genome News Network reports (Kate Ruder, 24 June 2004), for the reversal of muscular dystrophy. By suppressing the effects of myostatin, doctors may be able to restore atrophied muscle in MD patients. Awesome.

Now, although the TBO article implies that since the boy is normal, he won’t face any serious harm from this mutation, I read in another article (an MSN article you may have seen, but that I can’t get my e-hands on right now) that some doctors fear may suffer from some problems in the future. One problem I can think of off the top of my ignorant head is cardiac hypertrophy, meaning the boy’s heart muscles would get too big. Cardiac hypertrophy could in turn lead to general vascular hypertension, cardiac valve dysfunction, and congestive heart failure (CHF). CHF almost always occurs either in the right (RV) or left ventricle (LV). If it occurs in the RV, the major consequence is accessory edema (or, fluid build-up in your appendages, esp. lower). This is because when the RV fails – basically from sheer exhaustion – it can’t adequately eject the blood into the pulmonary artery. As the excess blood stays in the RV, it gradually leaks back into the inferior and superior vena cavae, the two big drainage vessels from the rest of the body. Eventually, you’ll start to see tissue swelling in the ankles, which usually results in “pitting edema” (you press the skin and a divot stays for a few seconds while the “soggy” flesh refills).

If, on the other hand, the boy has LV failure (LVF), he’ll suffer from a case of pulmonary edema. In LVF, the LV can’t adequately eject the blood into the aorta to the rest of the body. As the excess blood collects in the LV, it gradually starts leaking back into the pulmonary veins. Once back inside the alveolar capillary network (i.e., lung capillaries), this blood creates a fluid differential that pushes interstitial (i.e., between-cell) fluid into the alveoli. Basically, you start drowning from the inside on your own interstitial fluid. The main symptoms of this dysfunction are dyspnea (bad breathing) and a pink froth in your trachea and mouth. (Incidentally, you may not have caught it, but the pulmonary vessels are unique because they work opposite of the rest of the circulatory system: the pulmonary arteries are the only arteries to carry unoxygenated blood and the pulmonary veins, the only veins to carry oxygenated blood.)

Even recognizing this boy’s possible future problems does not erase the great benefits his mutation will have for the human race. And it’s just this serendipity that strikes me as sop funny – to put it mildly – about our culture’s obsession with cosmetic and therapeutic abortion. Imagine if this kid had been aborted, as the “inconvenience” he surely must be at times. By aborting as recklessly as we do, we are cutting out any number of unknown genetic windfalls. Maybe you’ve seen the political cartoon portraying a doctor advising a mother of ten children to abort. “It’s just another mouth to feed, the world is harsh, it may be deformed, you’ll be burdened even more, etc. Can’t you see it’s the best thing to do, Mrs. Beethoven?” Oh, ouch.

Feeding the fires of Moloch, er, defending abortion is especially silly for a convinced Darwinian. If you truly believe natural selection works so well – I mean, hey, it’s gotten us this far – why go tampering with it like some benighted gene gremlin? If gene research has taught us anything, it’s that long-term biological benefit is anything but skin-deep. That, in fact, is the basis for the dominant biological theories of ornamentation and courting behavior: even really lousy genetic suppliers can dupe a mate into copulating by looking good. A person could look perfect on the outside, or even be very sexually successful as agene transmitter – but she might nevertheless be housing a slew of nasty and worthless genetic flaws (that simply haven’t manifested, or won’t unless combined with other chromosomes).

But we modern humans think we are so superior to the silly ornamented, dancing birds and bees. They think they are helping their reproductive chances by choosing a strong or pretty mate. But how do they know that sly breeder isn’t a gene time bomb waiting to go off? They don’t know. But we do know better. They fool each other all the time, but we – yes, we who rule with that invincible hubristic trident of abortion, contraception and gene therapy – know better. Our ancestors may have been fooled by human ornamentation – status, clothes, wit, etc. – but we’re past such sexual illusions. We can read a person’s genome. We can see behind the veil. We can weed out unwanted offspring.

But the tragic irony is that, in the long run, we do not know any better. We are just as blind, in the long genetic course of things, as the most instinctual prancing peacock. By weeding out what is, in our sight, a bad fetus, we are eliminating an incalculably rich tree of genetic diversity and advantage. Of course, a convinced evolutionist would just retort that even our myopic abortive tampering is subsumed by the overarching majestic precision of natural selection, and that all will turn out well. Maybe so. But wielding the genetic trident as callously as we do, while also tooting the evolutionary horn as mindlessly as we do, is no more than a lot of bad acting in very bad faith. If evolution just works, let it work. But if it needs our petty tweaking, then the theory seems cheap. The only sure way to guide our path, with the trident of beautiful life in hand, is to entrust our collective genetic decisions to an elite think tank of genetic global designers. Enforced sterilizations. Trial-run pregnancies. Cosmetic abortions. Embryonic interior design. Is it headed that way? You can bet your puny trident rights.

Duck! Incoming!

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VP Cheney Drops ‘F Bomb’ on Senate Floor

We’re not there yet, but – oh I can smell it like Memphis BBQ – we are getting closer to the knockdown-dragout antics of Asian politics.

During a Senate mass photo shoot, Mr. Cheney apparently scolded Leahy for accusing Cheney of war profiteering when he worked at Halliburton. Leahy then retorted that, well, Cheney had accused him of being a bad Catholic when Leahy, from what I gather, was accused with a number of other politicians of being anti-Catholic for their opposition to the appointment of a Catholic attorney general, William Pryor, last August to the Alabama supreme court. Cheney then said either “F*** off” or “Go f*** yourself”. Um, well said, Mr. Cheney.

“You’re once... twice…

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nine-thousand times a ladybug.”

Or, as another blogger put it, "Amazon sells everything."

No one steals from God...

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This is my kind of cleric. I’d hate to see what happens if you skimp on the collection.

I have the following on the authority of a commentor at another blog:

Interesting side note - Fr. Matt Foley was a good friend of the late Chris Farley, of Saturday Night Live fame. Chris Farley, in tribute to his friend, named one of his characters Matt Foley. You remember: the man who lived in a van, down by the river...

I heard from the immediately subsequent commentor that Fr. Foley was, in fact, Chris Farley’s college roommate. I don’t like to say we live in a small world; I prefer to confess we serve a big God.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Augustine Day by Day - June 25 - God the Father and Our Mother the Church

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Unflaggingly, let us love the Lord our God and let us love his Church. Let us love Him as the Lord and the Church as his handmaid. No one can offend the one and still be pleasing to the other. What does it avail you if you do not directly offend the Father but do offend the mother?

-- Commentary on Psalm 88, 14

This is, obliquely, what I was talking about a few days ago when I said you can neither take the Scriptures out of a devotional love for God nor remove them from the life of the Church. When I read Augustine's wonderful Confessions in my first year of college, one of the few things he said which I've never been able to get out of my head is how he thanked God for bringing him into "the wings of the Church," and rather envied those who had been born and raised in those sheltering wings their whole lives. I realized that I myself had been born in those wings, and it really touched me. As bad as the Church is, life outside Her is even worse. In fact, there is no life outside the Church, because it is Christ's Body. I always thank God for saving me into Her wings, into His embrace from the Cross.

Prayer. Let my mouth speak the praise of the Lord by whom all things were made and who was made amidst all things. He is the witness of the Father and the creator of the mother.

-- Sermon 188, 3

As far as Christ being the creator of the mother, the Church, Augustine almost certainly has in mind the scene in John's Gospel when the centurion stabs Christ in the chest and blood pours out with water (chap. 19). Augustine asserted, somewhere else, and probably more than once, that the Church poured out of that wound, bought by the blood and born again by the water. And just before that life-giving fluid gushed out, Christ gave John, an archetype for a beloved disciple, as a son to Mary, and Mary, as the archetype for the Church, to us as a mother. Do with it what you will. What a shame the Earth has become our culture's mother when God always intended her to be our sister, a fellow creature, and the Church to be our true mother.
June 25